David Cameron slams anti-business 'snobbery'


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David Cameron made a passionate defence of big business's ability to change society for the good today as he declared it a “powerful force for social progress”.

The Prime Minister also spoke out against the growing "anti-business snobbery" towards large firms that claimed money-makers had "no inherent moral worth like the state does".

The business world has been increasingly accused by critics from across the political spectrum of being greedy and out of touch - typified in recent weeks by attacks on bankers' bonuses.

More fuel was added to the debate today when taxpayer-backed Royal Bank of Scotland unveiled losses of £2 billion but revealed it had paid staff nearly £1 billion in bonuses last year.

But Mr Cameron used a speech to industry leaders at a business summit, attended by the Prince of Wales, to counter the accusations.

Speaking at the conference organised by Charles' Business in the Community (BITC) organisation, the politician said: "In recent months we've heard some dangerous rhetoric creep into our national debate that wealth creation is somehow anti-social, that people in business are somehow out for themselves.

"I think we have to fight this mood with everything that we've got.

"Not just because it is wrong for our economy, because we need the jobs and investment that business brings, but because it is also wrong for our society.

"Business is not just about making money, vital as it is, it is also the most powerful force for social progress that the world has ever known."

He added that "snobbish attitudes" towards money-makers should also be confronted: "The snobbery that says business has no inherent moral worth like the state does, that it isn't really to be trusted, that it should stay out of social concerns and stick to making the money that pays the taxes."

Mr Cameron also launched two new initiatives today to improve the "transparency" of business.

Philip N Green, the Government's advisor on corporate responsibility, will chair an informal working group called the Open Business Forum to look at the issue.

While an online directory called Trading For Good would be established to allow consumers to learn about small businesses doing "good things" and reward them for it.

The Prime Minister returned to his idea of the "big society", telling the invited business people from companies as diverse as Thomas Cook, BT and Marks and Spencer: "Corporate responsibility is an absolutely vital part of my mission for this Government to build a bigger, stronger society.

"The big society is all about people recognising that they have obligations beyond paying their taxes and obeying the law not just doing no harm, but doing good.

"And this applies to businesses just as much as it does to individuals."

The Prime Minister praised the prince for his work over the years promoting business-community relations.

He said: "Long before corporate responsibility was a big thing, before those buzz phrases like 'ethical accounting' and 'social value', the Prince was there, urging business to do more, to give more, to think more about their impact on the world."

Mr Cameron concluded by telling the audience who had gathered in the Roundhouse in Camden, north London: "Free enterprise is the best imaginable force for improving our lives and it has a powerful role to play in renewing our country.

"As we go forward together I want the relationship between this government and business to continue as it's started not leading you but collaborating and co-operating with you, not bossing from the top-down but encouraging the changes you're making from the bottom up."